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Forum Shopping for Federal Courts Becomes More Difficult

By Russell Pig

A recent Judicial Conference policy will limit the ability of plaintiffs to forum shop, a practice of filing in a district with a pool or single judge sympathetic to the plaintiff’s position.

The discussion that culminated in this policy began in 2021 with a written letter to the United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts from Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and since retired Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that raised concerns about the number of patent cases being filed in single-judge divisions.

Plaintiffs search out single judge districts in order to find a favorable judge for their case that would be sympathetic to their position.

Debate over forum shopping, especially for single judge districts, increased significantly after a few controversial cases involving issues such as immigration and abortion.

The Court Administration and Case Management Committee (CACM) did a study on patent cases, called for by Chief Justice Roberts, and found similar issues involving bankruptcy and other civil litigation cases.

The CACM committee submitted a proposed policy to the Judicial Conference changing the rules of judicial assignment for cases where the impact is statewide or nationwide.


On March 12, 2024, the Judicial Conference convened and decided to adopt a new policy that assigns judges through a district-wide random selection process in cases that seek to bar or mandate state or federal actions. Now, a judge will be picked at random rather than defaulting to a judge in a specific courthouse.

The conference contends that the new policy will limit forum shopping, limiting the ability of cases to be brought before particular judges based on merits or abilities, and promotes impartiality and public confidence in the federal court system.

With this new policy, plaintiffs will no longer be able to search out single judge districts.

The issue raised by Leahy and Tillis on single judge rulings for patent cases should now be diminished.